Republican presidential primaries are taking place in Michigan and Arizona today. While Mitt Romney is expect to easily win the Arizona primary, the polling of Michigan shows that the race there is incredibly close. Arizona assigns its delegates winner-takes-all, but in Michigan delegates are based on how well a candidate does in each congressional district. You can find my primer for tonight here.
Most polls close in Michigan at 8pm Eastern but all of them close by 9 pm ET. Expect results to come in rather quickly in Michigan. In Arizona, all polls close at 9 pm ET.
The exit poll data released so far shows that in both states voters said electability is the most important quality in a nominee.
8:25 pm – In Michigan the very first votes have just started coming in. With 1 percent of precincts reporting it is currently Rick Santorum 44%, Mitt Romney 34%, Ron Paul 11%, Newt Gingrich 7%.
8:30 pm – Results are starting to come in pretty quickly in MI. Currently Santorum 40%, Romney 39%, Paul 10%, Gingrich 7%. Very close.
8:48 pm – We are now up to 11 percent reporting in Michigan and it is still pretty close. Santorum 41%, Romney 38%, Paul 11%, Gingrich 7%.
9:00 pm – All polls are now closed and CNN projects that Mitt Romney will win Arizona.
9:05 pm – So far it appears Operation Hilarity in Michigan seems to have worked pretty well. According to the exit polling Democrats made up 9 percent of the vote in the state. Santorum won Democrats by 57% to Romney’s 17%.
9:11 pm – With 25 percent reporting in Michigan it is now Romney 41%, Santorum 38%, Paul 11%, Gingrich 7%. The exit polling gives Romney a slight edge in the state. So far things are looking good for Romney this evening.
9:14 pm – Romney won a strong clean sweep in Arizona. Exit polls have him winning all age groups and all economy groups in the state.
9:22 pm – With 31 percent reporting in MI it is Romney 41%, Santorum 38%, Paul 11%, Gingrich 7%.
9:25 pm – At the very least Romney will have some decent talking points to spin Michigan. Romney won actual Republicans 47% to Santorum 37% and the two candidates tied with Independents. It is only Santorum’s huge margin with Democrats that is keeping the race close. If this were a closed primary Romney would have won easily.
9:37 pm – We are now at 40 percent reporting in MI and Romney continues to hold onto a narrow lead. It is Romney 41%, Santorum 38%. Looking at where the votes have currently been counted, things are looking pretty good for Romney.
9:49 pm – With 51 percent reporting Romney’s lead has grown slightly. Romney 42%, Santorum 37%, Paul 12%, Gingrich 7%.
10:00 pm – Now at 60 percent reporting and Romney’s lead keeps growing. Romney 40% to Santorum 36%.
10:05 pm – Interestingly Romney did about as well among voters who approved of the auto bailout and voters who disapproved of it. Romney’s vocal opposition to it did not hurt him in the Michigan primary, but that could be due to the fact that all the GOP candidates also opposed it.
10:10 pm – Rick Santorum is now speaking before Michigan is called. A pretty good sign he doesn’t expect to win it.
10:14 pm – NBC is now projecting Mitt Romney will win Michigan.
Final thoughts – Romney scored a huge win in Arizona and managed a solid win in Michigan. While both states for different reasons favored Romney, a solid sweep tonight is a very important for the Romney campaign going forward.
In the past few days the national momentum started swing back towards Romney and the two wins tonight should help that trend continue. Romney should have solid momentum heading into Super Tuesday next week when ten states vote.
This has been a very good night for Romney.